Kevin and Melinda Grimac were investing in downtown Knoxville long before it was cool.
In the 1990s, they bought and renovated 135 South Gay St., the current home of Sugar Mama’s Bakery. Other renovation projects followed, including the Arcade Building where they have made their home since 2013.
But now they’re branching out of their comfort zone with a new project, this time building from scratch on a parking lot at 107 Commerce Avenue, on the north side of Marble Alley. All new construction, this four-story mixed-use building will have a modern look and feel tailor-made for a selective clientele.
“It was basically me listening to my high-end clients and building their wish list,” Melinda says. “There are several very nice properties available downtown, but to get all the wish list in one, that is why we decided to do this project.”
That wish list includes features like on-site parking, on-site climate-controlled storage, gas cooking, tall ceilings, expansive windows in every room, a private elevator and plenty of private outdoor space. Plans aren’t finalized yet, but the Grimacs are looking at high-end finishes like heated floors and Touch20 kitchen fixtures.
“We are going for a fresh, sleek, contemporary look,” Melinda says. “We are in a pre-sale format, and it’s buzzing already. At this point, if (the buyers) are early enough, they’ll have a lot of leeway for some customization. In my mind, I envision working with each individual client.”
The location is fairly central to all downtown Knoxville has to offer. It’s convenient to the dog park, Gay Street and Market Square, and interstate access is close by.
The building will have commercial space on the ground floor and residential space above. Melinda says they already have a potential commercial tenant interested in the first two floors, but she declined to say who at this time.
As for the residential units, Melinda says she’s not catering to an age-based demographic, but a client with specific tastes.
“Ironically, the age range of who I think will buy, it’s probably got a 40-year range in there,” she says. “They have the means to buy something nice, and this is what it will be. These buyers are not in a hurry to come downtown, and they’re going to wait until they get what they want.”
The project’s architect is Forrest Kirkpatrick of forK design, a one-man operation who recently designed Tennessee Valley Bicycles on Magnolia. The Grimacs chose to go with him after seeing his work on a Keller Building (106 West Summit Hill Dr.) unit that Melinda said was “ahead of its time.”
“He did the design and woodworking,” Melinda says. “It was his craftsmanship, I was really impressed with that, and a fresh design. He’s been a real pleasure to work with.”
Building new instead of renovating has its own blessings and curses. While the Grimacs haven’t broken ground at 107 Commerce Ave. yet, and are still gathering bids for the construction, Melinda can already identify some differences in the process.
“Each type of project is going to have its own set of suprises,” she says. “I think the cost of building from scratch has been our first surprise. I think the new construction building costs are actually borderline prohibitive downtown.”
But, building from the ground up gives the opportunity to do things right.
“We can design this property to where every room has a window. That’s nice. We can design it to have fiber in it right off the bat, and we don’t have to retrofit. It’s all well-planned and clean, and you know where it is. You can do all of your security systems before they close up the walls. Everything is right there and how you need it,” Melinda says.
There’s another force driving the Grimacs’ choices, too. They want to be good neighbors and build for the betterment of downtown Knoxville. They made sure the building would be parking-neutral and wouldn’t encroach on the back of the nearby Keller Building.
“By code we could have built it corner to corner,” Melinda says. “But we don’t want to do that to Knoxville. We don’t want to build it and make money and run. We want to build something that fits in and helps the neighborhood. It will be nice for our tenants and nice for the Keller Building. It needs to be a win-win.”
The property is owned by the Grimacs through their company La Corona Fine Properties and exclusively marketed by Melinda Grimac through Alliance Sotheby’s International Realty. For information, visit melindagrimac.alliancesothebysrealty.com.
Ed. Note: The Mercury’s office is located in the Arcade Building, one of the Grimacs’ properties.
Shannon Carey started writing for the Halls Shopper-News in the summer of 2005, covering everything from lost chickens to government scandal. She wore a lot of hats at the Shopper, including associate publisher and sales manager. After getting downsized in December 2015, she opened her own freelance writing business and dubbed herself The Plucky Pen. Find her website and blog at thepluckypen.com.
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